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Back to the Future, by Bicycle

8:58 AM PST on January 26, 2010

When does going backward mean progress? When you're talking about
bicycle use in the city of Beijing.

According to Streetsblog Network
member The
City Fix
, Chinese officials have woken up to the idea that the
city's traditional bicycling culture, which has been in sharp decline
over the last 20 years, should be restored and fostered:

beijing_nov_07_kf_024.jpgMore bikes
are coming to Beijing. (Photo: Karl
, ITDP China)

Liu Xiaoming, the director of
the Municipal Communications Commission, said in a Xinhua

that the government will “revise and eliminate” regulations that
discourage bicycle use and impose greater restrictions on car drivers...

The government also plans to restore bicycle lanes that were torn
down, as well as to build more parking lots for bicycles at bus and
subway stations to encourage additional cycling.  Also an improvement:
The city will make more bikes available for rent to defray the cost of
owning a bike (a new one can cost as little as $20-$40) and allay fears
of bicycle theft, a rampant
problem in the city
. By 2015, the number of bikes for rent will
total 50,000. 

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away, Los Angeles blog Westside
has a post that indulges in a little futuristic fantasy,
putting convicted road rager Dr. Christopher Thompson in a quasi–Planet
of the Apes scenario. (Thanks to Stephen Box of SoapBoxLA for pointing us to
this one.)

Here's the idea: Dr. Thompson, as you may have heard, has been sentenced
to five years in prison
for his vehicular assault on two people
riding bicycles on Mandeville Canyon Road in Los Angeles. His driver's
license has also been permanently revoked. The folks at Westside
Bikeside are imagining what would happen if the city of LA underwent a
paradigm shift in those five years, and Dr. Thompson emerged into a
landscape that was much friendlier to bicycles — one of which, of
course, would be his most efficient form of transportation:

To Thompson it really would look like the Planet of the Apes. Hewould have left a city where the car is king and its necessity isunquestioned by most. …He might return to a city which put cyclists andpedestrians, asvulnerable road users, first. He might return to a city where cyclingis fashionable, and cyclist intimidation, in any form, isunfashionable...

I’d like to announce Bikeside’s Planet of the Apes meta-project.It’s not really a project — what the hell would a Planet of the Apesproject grant application look like? It’s more of a goal: total,unfathomable, transformation. Total transformation of LA’s streets;unfathomable transformation of LA’s minds... We should begin our journey not entirely certain of ourdestination, just intention and resolve to work like hell to get itdone.  I say we point to the mountain in the distance and say “that’swhere we’re going, screw the map.” That’s the Planet of the Apesmeta-project -- a commitment to all out transformation of LA to a lush,livable, fun-able, paradise.

Ridiculous? Or visionary? To those who would say LA's sheer size
makes bicycling as transportation impractical, Beijing's example may be
instructive: Los
Angeles County
contains some 4,061 square miles; the city of Beijing encompasses
nearly 6,500 square miles.

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